Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to school blues

Lined up and ready to go.
Three days after school ended in June, I could hardly wait for this day. It was a bumpy transition from organized days and end-of-school-year busyness to the laidback anarchy of summer vacation. I struggled to fit work into fleeting by-myself moments as the kids, left with free time stretching from morning into afternoon into long evening into weeks of no school – all of it spent in sometimes painfully close proximity with each other – filled a good bit of the emptiness with bickering. By the third day out of school, I was reaching my wit’s end (which, really, seems a daily occurrence for me, but this was beyond normal limits).

Then summer happened.

We adjusted to lazy mornings spent in PJs, hours each day of playing outside, a week-long visit from cousins, another week spent at the ocean, trips to the beach, hot afternoons at the pool, visits to a variety of ice cream joints, and later-than-normal bedtimes. There was still bickering, to be sure. My work and home chores to-do lists have grown long, and it will take me many days of the kids at school to catch up.

But this year was as close to summer bliss as I’ve been since I was a kid.

Alas, this morning I will drop my children off at school and come home to an empty house. I have packed favorite foods into new lunchboxes and zipped up the backpacks for the first time in two and a half months. I have started prioritizing my to-do list and hope to tackle an item or two today. But my mind will undoubtedly wander often to my children, as I wonder how their first day of the school year is going. Are they nervous? Are the other kids being nice to them? Are they being nice to the other kids? Are they happy?

The littlest one is excited to return to preschool, where she will be one of the “big kids” this year, where she knows the routine, the lay of the classroom and playground, and where she adores the only two teachers she’s known. She has been asking me every day for a week or more if she gets to go to school today, and this morning she will finally get the answer she wants.

The older two start first grade today, with a new teacher and endless new things to learn. My daughter is nervous about being in a new classroom with a new teacher and a longer day. But they’re both excited to be with their friends again and to return to art class and phys ed and music and chocolate milk at snack time. At drop off I expect to see other nervous kids, along with parents who will range from tearful (with the knowledge that this day marks one more year of the they-grow-up-so-fast movement) to giddy with joy (at having regained some freedom in their days).

We filled the last week of summer vacation with plenty of fun. We camped in the backyard. We picked as many berries – the season’s everlasting blue and the newly ripened black – as we could. We rode bikes and went swimming, roasted marshmallows and played mini-golf, visited with friends and soaked up all the sunshine and fresh air and unscheduled time we could.
We’re all hoping for more summer, a few more days of hot sunshine and cool water to jump into, a few more berries picked fresh for breakfast, a few more hikes and bike rides. But it won’t be the same as summer vacation. So, it’s a good thing we filled up with the sweetness of summer while we could.

Today begins the weekday shuffle of getting everyone up and out of the house early. Soon we’ll have soccer practice and dance class and homework to add to the after-school schedule. I guess it’s fitting that this morning the sky – so bright and sunshiny yesterday – is gray and raining. It suits my back to school blues.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her Blog: Writings from a full life. 

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